Pompey boss explains Ben Close re-emergence

Ben Close. Picture: Joe Pepler
Ben Close. Picture: Joe Pepler
  • Close has made 12 Pompey appearances in his career
  • Midfielder not featured for the first-team since September 1 at Exeter

Forgotten man Ben Close is back in the Pompey match-day fold.

And Paul Cook is adamant the home-grown midfielder is still part of his Fratton Park plans.

We have faith in all the players, unfortunately you can’t pick them all so it’s not a case of falling out with them

Paul Cook

The 19-year-old’s early part of the campaign was hampered by a groin injury, applying the brakes to his encouraging progress.

Not since leading the Blues out as skipper in the Johnstone’s Paint Trophy defeat at Exeter on September 1 had Close featured.

Yet the youngster from Fratton has now been involved in the squad for Pompey’s last two matches.

It was an absence which had stretched to 17 games, although still featuring in three reserve fixtures.

Now Close is back, albeit as an unused substitute.

And Cook has revealed why the recall has finally arrived.

He said: ‘With Ben I just felt it was important that everyone feels part of what we are doing, it’s the best way to reward a player.

‘The difference between not being in the squad and sub can be huge psychologically for people.

‘For me Ben needed a little lift at that time to show that he is still very much in our thoughts and part of what we are trying to do.

‘It has been a good opportunity for Ben to come back.

‘We have faith in all the players, unfortunately you can’t pick them all so it’s not a case of falling out with them.

‘We are just trying to show everyone that we trust them and I feel that builds team spirit better than anything else.

‘Ben is ready to go.’

Such is the size of Pompey’s squad, other have also struggled to find a way into the match-day 18.

Nigel Atangana has now missed the last five squads, with Jayden Stockley absent for the last two despite returning from injury.

The past three matches have also seen Brandon Haunstrup re-emerge on the bench following time away.

In addition, Adam Barton has been a sporadic figure among the substitutes during the last two months,

Regardless of the squad numbers, Cook is pleased with the togetherness of his troops.

He added: ‘The togetherness of the squad lately, in my opinion, has been a marked improvement.

‘The lads out of the team now are conducting themselves a lot better, there is a lot more belief in each other and I think that is good.

‘Any given day it can be any player in there on a match day.

‘Gary Roberts has been out for two months and other players have come to the fore. Chaplin has scored goals, McGurk has scored goals, right the way through the squad is the more important thing for us now, not the XI.

‘They need something that is going to give them a lift sometimes.

‘Obviously McNulty and Lavery have taken quite a few plaudits lately, but we have played 22 games now and in my opinion the squad is in a good place and they have all chipped in.’